Document Detail

Title: SD-57 - Data Integration Strategies in Construction
Publication Date: 9/2/1990
Product Type: Source Document
Status: Archived Tool
Pages: 172
This publication has been archived, but is available for download for informational purposes only.

Bell, Gibson, Auburn Univ.
Order Now  

Abstract

Data integration strategies are currently being implemented in the construction industry using separate but related concepts. The integrated database (IDB) concept helps engineering and construction firms to reduce internal data transfer barriers and become more productive. Data transfer technology allows firms to transfer data externally between trading partners and significantly reduce materials management costs. Each of these technologies enhances the overall flow of project management information.

The use of an integrated database (IDB) system in design, construction, and facility management within the building industry is a subject that has been defined in previous research. The basic concept is one which allows a project to be designed, constructed, and managed as a facility without re-keying any information. Precious data resources are conserved. Until recently, the hardware and software resources were not available to establish a cost effective implementation of the integrated database. One of the key premises of the philosophy is to capture these efficiencies throughout the life cycle of the facility. This technology is being implemented in different forms by CII member firms and others.

CII member firms that provide both design and construction services should formulate a plan for integrating design and construction functions through the integrated database concept. Design firms that have established long-term relationships with owner clients will be better able to develop IDB systems that meet client needs.

The three integrated database case studies presented herein illustrate the fact that there are at present no serious barriers to integrated system development. A few years ago it could be argued that many barriers existed, the most constraining of which was hardware, software, and system development costs. Whereas mainframe 3-D systems remain relatively expensive, a sophisticated PC network utilizing 2-D CADD can be put in place for an investment of as little as $250,000. In-house developed applications would involve additional expenditures. However, considering the fact that mainframe systems hardware, software, and development costs may run as high as $30 million, this certainly presents an attractive alternative.

Graphical standards will continue to provide minor barriers for the exchange of CADD data between dissimilar hardware and software systems. Also, IGES, PDES, STEP and other standards groups should make significant progress in developing graphical standards in a relatively short period of time. There is no need for CII action concerning these standards. De facto CADD standards also appear to be emerging in that certain segments of the industry are adopting specific commercial products.

The need for common material commodity codes in various segments of our industry disciplines has been recognized. A number of industry associations are working to develop common commodity codes, or, in the case of the electrical industry, a UPC or manufacturer specific, part numbering system. The method by which the metals industry characterizes its products for EDI could be a template for other industries in developing common commodity codes. If the IPD/ASA committee is successful in its approach for industrial piping materials, it could also become a model for other industries.

Expert systems, voice recognition, laser disk, and bar code technology will all make finite contributions to improving data management in construction. Voice recognition and expert systems applications are the subject of ongoing, recently funded, CII research projects.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the direct computer-to-computer exchange of standard format business documents. EDI is a straightforward, inexpensive technology that has become commonplace in other industries. Legal, security, auditing, and other concerns can be easily overcome. Experience in other industries indicates that EDI has a strong potential for reducing purchasing and accounting related costs, increasing purchasing professionalism, eliminating paperwork, increasing purchasing lead time, reducing inventory, reducing data transmission errors and improving materials management planning.

Some of the productivity and error reduction benefits can be obtained from very inexpensive stand-alone PC-based EDI systems. For maximum benefits, both trading partners should integrate the EDI transmission into existing computer systems that include purchasing, expediting, inventory control, accounting, shipping, etc.

EDI is best suited to applications involving repetitive small volume transactions from a home office environment. This does not, however, preclude cost effective field applications.

It is recognized that construction purchasing is often performed in a chaotic field environment that may or may not be electronically linked to a comprehensive integrated home office material management system. Certainly the cost savings attributed to EDI are more impressive when the integrated system link is present. However, one case study indicates tangible cost savings can be achieved through the use of stand-alone PC-based systems. These systems could be easily imported to the field for communication with established EDI partners.

Two areas that are particularly suited to EDI are special construction methods and trade partnering.

Prefabrication, preassembly and modularization are special construction methods that are becoming more common on industrial construction projects. EDI has the potential to enhance procurement on these types of projects to take advantage of the economies realized with EDI applications in manufacturing. EDI also forces companies to develop closer relationships with trading partners. The outcome of this process will probably be more partnering agreements between engineering and construction firms and their major suppliers. The resulting cost savings introduced by improved schedule deliveries, inventory reduction and procurement efficiency will be impressive.

The current lack of participation by U.S. construction firms in national and international EDI standards producing organizations is disturbing. The industry must actively contribute to ASC X12 standards development. CII engineering contractors and owners should join DISA, the secretariat for the ASC X12 EDI committee. An informal EDI action group should be established to serve as focal point for verifying that both ASC X12 and UN/EDIFACT standards meet the needs of the construction industry.

EDI applications in construction have the potential for very tangible cost reductions in materials management and project control areas. However, the U.S. construction industry lags behind other industries and foreign construction competition in its implementation. The potential European construction boom after the 1992 European Common Market takes effect is one reason for implementing new competitive technologies. The U.S. construction industry must be proactive, rather than reactive, in implementing EDI.

Modifications to existing computer systems, whether to provide integrated database capability or implement EDI, should be undertaken in discrete stages, with strong upper management support. Small-scale pilot projects should be undertaken to demonstrate benefits before full-scale system implementation.

A pilot project application is critical to the success of any EDI program. Probably the key outgrowth of a pilot project is the education of the participants and the foundation for future implementations. Only by fully integrating EDI into the overall project management computing system can the full benefits of EDI be realized. EDI pilot projects should be planned and implemented carefully following the guidelines contained herein.

It is, of course, difficult to predict the future. However, it is estimated that within 5-10 years, the majority of purchasing related transactions for construction and maintenance performed by CII member firms will be executed using EDI. EDI is a technology which can enhance the data management capabilities of a firm while significantly reducing data management costs. It is not a panacea for all data transfer and productivity problems. If EDI is used properly, however, a competitive advantage can be attained.

The impetus for adoption of IDB and EDI technologies by engineering and construction firms may need to be applied by owner corporations. The overall efficiencies gained by these technologies should more than compensate for the start-up costs of the programs and provide tangible cost savings in industrial construction projects throughout the life of the facilities.


Abstract

Data integration strategies are currently being implemented in the construction industry using separate but related concepts. The integrated database (IDB) concept helps engineering and construction firms to reduce internal data transfer barriers and become more productive. Data transfer technology allows firms to transfer data externally between trading partners and significantly reduce materials management costs. Each of these technologies enhances the overall flow of project management information.

The use of an integrated database (IDB) system in design, construction, and facility management within the building industry is a subject that has been defined in previous research. The basic concept is one which allows a project to be designed, constructed, and managed as a facility without re-keying any information. Precious data resources are conserved. Until recently, the hardware and software resources were not available to establish a cost effective implementation of the integrated database. One of the key premises of the philosophy is to capture these efficiencies throughout the life cycle of the facility. This technology is being implemented in different forms by CII member firms and others.

CII member firms that provide both design and construction services should formulate a plan for integrating design and construction functions through the integrated database concept. Design firms that have established long-term relationships with owner clients will be better able to develop IDB systems that meet client needs.

The three integrated database case studies presented herein illustrate the fact that there are at present no serious barriers to integrated system development. A few years ago it could be argued that many barriers existed, the most constraining of which was hardware, software, and system development costs. Whereas mainframe 3-D systems remain relatively expensive, a sophisticated PC network utilizing 2-D CADD can be put in place for an investment of as little as $250,000. In-house developed applications would involve additional expenditures. However, considering the fact that mainframe systems hardware, software, and development costs may run as high as $30 million, this certainly presents an attractive alternative.

Graphical standards will continue to provide minor barriers for the exchange of CADD data between dissimilar hardware and software systems. Also, IGES, PDES, STEP and other standards groups should make significant progress in developing graphical standards in a relatively short period of time. There is no need for CII action concerning these standards. De facto CADD standards also appear to be emerging in that certain segments of the industry are adopting specific commercial products.

The need for common material commodity codes in various segments of our industry disciplines has been recognized. A number of industry associations are working to develop common commodity codes, or, in the case of the electrical industry, a UPC or manufacturer specific, part numbering system. The method by which the metals industry characterizes its products for EDI could be a template for other industries in developing common commodity codes. If the IPD/ASA committee is successful in its approach for industrial piping materials, it could also become a model for other industries.

Expert systems, voice recognition, laser disk, and bar code technology will all make finite contributions to improving data management in construction. Voice recognition and expert systems applications are the subject of ongoing, recently funded, CII research projects.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the direct computer-to-computer exchange of standard format business documents. EDI is a straightforward, inexpensive technology that has become commonplace in other industries. Legal, security, auditing, and other concerns can be easily overcome. Experience in other industries indicates that EDI has a strong potential for reducing purchasing and accounting related costs, increasing purchasing professionalism, eliminating paperwork, increasing purchasing lead time, reducing inventory, reducing data transmission errors and improving materials management planning.

Some of the productivity and error reduction benefits can be obtained from very inexpensive stand-alone PC-based EDI systems. For maximum benefits, both trading partners should integrate the EDI transmission into existing computer systems that include purchasing, expediting, inventory control, accounting, shipping, etc.

EDI is best suited to applications involving repetitive small volume transactions from a home office environment. This does not, however, preclude cost effective field applications.

It is recognized that construction purchasing is often performed in a chaotic field environment that may or may not be electronically linked to a comprehensive integrated home office material management system. Certainly the cost savings attributed to EDI are more impressive when the integrated system link is present. However, one case study indicates tangible cost savings can be achieved through the use of stand-alone PC-based systems. These systems could be easily imported to the field for communication with established EDI partners.

Two areas that are particularly suited to EDI are special construction methods and trade partnering.

Prefabrication, preassembly, and modularization are special construction methods that are becoming more common on industrial construction projects. EDI has the potential to enhance procurement on these types of projects to take advantage of the economies realized with EDI applications in manufacturing. EDI also forces companies to develop closer relationships with trading partners. The outcome of this process will probably be more partnering agreements between engineering and construction firms and their major suppliers. The resulting cost savings introduced by improved schedule deliveries, inventory reduction, and procurement efficiency will be impressive.

The current lack of participation by U.S. construction firms in national and international EDI standards producing organizations is disturbing. The industry must actively contribute to ASC X12 standards development. CII engineering contractors and owners should join DISA, the secretariat for the ASC X12 EDI committee. An informal EDI action group should be established to serve as focal point for verifying that both ASC X12 and UN/EDIFACT standards meet the needs of the construction industry.

EDI applications in construction have the potential for very tangible cost reductions in materials management and project control areas. However, the U.S. construction industry lags behind other industries and foreign construction competition in its implementation. The potential European construction boom after the 1992 European Common Market takes effect is one reason for implementing new competitive technologies. The U.S. construction industry must be proactive, rather than reactive, in implementing EDI.

Modifications to existing computer systems, whether to provide integrated database capability or implement EDI, should be undertaken in discrete stages, with strong upper management support. Small-scale pilot projects should be undertaken to demonstrate benefits before full-scale system implementation.

A pilot project application is critical to the success of any EDI program. Probably the key outgrowth of a pilot project is the education of the participants and the foundation for future implementations. Only by fully integrating EDI into the overall project management computing system can the full benefits of EDI be realized. EDI pilot projects should be planned and implemented carefully following the guidelines contained herein.

It is, of course, difficult to predict the future. However, it is estimated that within 5-10 years, the majority of purchasing related transactions for construction and maintenance performed by CII member firms will be executed using EDI. EDI is a technology which can enhance the data management capabilities of a firm while significantly reducing data management costs. It is not a panacea for all data transfer and productivity problems. If EDI is used properly, however, a competitive advantage can be attained.

The impetus for adoption of IDB and EDI technologies by engineering and construction firms may need to be applied by owner corporations. The overall efficiencies gained by these technologies should more than compensate for the start-up costs of the programs and provide tangible cost savings in industrial construction projects throughout the life of the facilities.